No Regrets, The Early Years

By: Lydia Scott

Lydia ScottI guess at the age of 42, I can consider myself middle-aged. 42 years is plenty of time to make a bunch of decisions that don’t turn out too well. It’s also plenty of time to be able to find the silver lining among the dark clouds of bad ideas. There are things I fully regret, like that time I drank way too much at that party out of town. Ugh. Or going to work for that horrible man who felt I was too fat to work out front where his clients could see me. Or not gassing up my car that dark night when I was 16 and out past curfew. These are all insignificant events that lead to nothing but pain and humiliation. I could have matured without those, thank you very much!

On a larger scale, I’ve been through some things that I did have a choice in, but either didn’t go well or weren’t, in general, a happy experience. But I don’t regret them. This blog will focus on something that took up a lot of my early life and wasn’t the right thing for me. But I definitely don’t regret it. Even when I get mad about it, I still don’t regret it.

I spent well over 30 years as a very devout member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sure, I got into it because my parents were Witnesses, but in my mid-teens I made the conscious choice to stick with it, to the fullest extent possible. Now, I have to say first, this way of life works wonderfully for millions of people, and in no way am I knocking it. For me, however, it resulted in a lot of issues that lead to unhappiness, more bad decisions, and denying the mind I was born with. Eventually, in my mid-30’s, I did move on to a way of life that fit my persona better – agnosticism. For me, being a devout evangelical Christian in this religion was not a good idea. However, there were good things I learned and experienced from it, like:

  1. I learned how to thoroughly research an assigned topic; devise an outline for a 5 minute dialog about that topic; create a skit between me and another assigned person that had to be within 30 seconds of the 5 minute limit and accomplish the task of getting the point across with a defined beginning, body, and conclusion; then perform said skit on stage (with real microphones!) in front of about 100 other people, afterwards being critiqued on it and informed of what needed improvement. I did this as a preteen and continued on as long as I was a Witness. It has served me well in my career, without the “formal” education.
  2. I learned how to stand up for what I believed was right, even when every single other person around me, every single day, thought I was an idiot. Do you know how hard it is to have the last name of Valentine, but not celebrate Valentine’s day? I can’t tell you how many times, even as a grade schooler, I had to to say “no, thank you” to people who just felt sure I really needed cards, presents, and parties for all the holidays and birthdays they enjoyed and I didn’t. Did I feel left out? Absolutely. Do I now have a hard time knowing what to do for all these celebrations, yet have an insane need to participate in the fun? Absolutely. Am I glad I learned how to stand up for my beliefs, even though I eventually outgrew them? Definitely!
  3. I learned discipline. We had meetings three days a week, every week, plus the “field ministry” (going door to door to talk about spiritual topics with strangers) a minimum of one morning a week. So yeah, even as a child, I was well-behaved and spiritual with a bunch of other people on at least four of the seven week days. I had to get dressed in fancy clothes (basically Sunday church-going clothes) for everything. I had to make sure I had all of my materials, like a Bible, a song book, publications we’d be reviewing, and a book bag. I had to study the assigned materials before each meeting so that I could participate. Participate, for the general audience, meant raising your hand to answer the questions voiced by the conductor of the meeting (usually provided in the assigned study material). If you could read, you could study and prepare your comments. If you weren’t old enough to read, mom and/or dad would help you practice giving a simple one or two word answer to a question they felt would work well for you. The conductors of the meetings would make a point to look for the tiny hands being held up amongst the 100 or so faces in the audience.

All of these things played a major role in many of the positive habits I have as an adult. Granted, there are parts of what I experienced that played a negative role, but hey…nothing is 100% positive, right?  And this blog series is focusing on the good stuff.

My next blog post will deal with my experience later in life with psychiatric treatment facilities, which was not fun either. But I learned some things from my experiences there that I didn’t expect.

I’d love to hear from some of you. What things did you experience that weren’t positive, or weren’t good ideas, but  taught you some valuable lessons?

Iced Coffee Protein Smoothie: Two Mugs Up

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

CoffeeIn the last four years, I have slayed a lot of “food dragons,” but the one that I haven’t been able to lick? Artificial sweeteners! When it comes to my morning coffee, I still like to add one “blue” and one “pink.” I’ve tried the “yellow” and other natural sweeteners, but nothing has the same appeal. I recently ran across this Iced Coffee Smoothie recipe, so I thought I’d give it a try. I was a bit hesitant because I don’t like iced coffee, but this is one fabulous smoothie. It’s also surprisingly filling; I can have one as late as 8 a.m. and not be hungry again until lunchtime.

Iced Coffee Protein Smoothie (Serves One)

  • ½ cup brewed coffee (cold)
  • ¼ unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • ½ ripe banana, frozen and cut into chunks *
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (I love to use MaraNatha Dark Chocolate Almond Spread)
  • 1 pitted date
  • 1 scoop, vanilla protein powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash, ground cinnamon

 Add ingredients to blender, process until smooth.

 *Forget to freeze a banana? No worries, just add half a cup of ice!

Halloween

By: Leah Prescott

Am I the only one who thinks that Halloween has gotten completely out of control? Once upon a time, Halloween was a night; now it is its own season. I suppose because we Americans are so addicted to sugar, it has somehow earned itself an extension into the whole month of October, stealing the thunder, in my opinion, from a lot of awesome stuff like autumn leaves and apple picking. When I was a child, we got candy on Halloween night (regular candy, like tootsie rolls and jolly ranchers), and that’s all it took to make us happy. Back then, the candy didn’t have to be orange or shaped like a brain or a mummy for us to enjoy it. And we certainly didn’t expect Jack-o-Lantern cookies and bat-themed fruit snacks to be served everywhere we went for the entire month.

Halloween

Remember when costumes were homemade? And not Pinterest-y homemade – I mean creatively cobbled together from whatever was lying around the house. Here’s a picture of my siblings and I at a Fall Festival on Halloween night many years ago.

Notice we are all in “costume” and yet none of us paid a penny to get into character. We were even dressed in theme: Noah’s Ark. I am the “dove” at the top (in my old ballet leotard). One of my brothers is Noah with the mop on his chin and the other one has a tiger costume literally made from a paper bag. My sister was wearing overalls because I guess caring for the tiger was a messy job. See how much fun we are having?

halloween

Now-a-days, costumes are amazingly elaborate and expensive. As if we don’t have enough to worry about with Christmas, birthdays and all the days in between, now Halloween has become an intense parade of Disney princesses and Marvel super heroes (and all those other boy things I can’t yet identify because my son is only two years old). People ask what your children are going to be for Halloween when October has barely begun. (I guess you have to start saving for those pricey costumes just when you finished shelling out all that cash for back to school.) I read that this year consumers are expected to pay $7.4 billion dollars on Halloween costumes. Now, I’m no mathematician or social trends expert, but I’m guessing that is, at a minimum, way, way, way more money than we have to spend as a country. And that doesn’t include all the extras like candy and event tickets. Just like so many other things in America, Halloween has become an opportunity for indulgence.

Pumpkin

I guess my takeaway from this post is that I want to enjoy Fall without orange and black pushing aside the yellows and burnt oranges. I want my kids to know they can create whatever their imaginations dream up, if they are willing to pull out the Mod Podge and poster paint. I want to minimize the sugar high and entitlement and look ahead to the attitude of gratitude that November brings. Mostly, I just don’t want my daughter to be one of 11 other Elsa’s at the costume party. Because where’s the fun in that?

Super Baby

By: Lara Winburn

There are a lot of things about babies that I find magical. Newborns fascinate me with their sweet smells and their tiny, perfect finger nails and ears. Watching a baby and then a toddler learn all of the things we find most basic like walking and talking are quite babiesremarkable. But after a baby moves in to live with you forever, you realize they are even more magical than you thought.

A baby, somehow, cannot utter a cry for hours and as soon as you pick up a fork and touch it to your own tired and hungry lips, that baby will wail almost on cue. You can change a diaper, dress your child in the most precious outfit for picture day and within minutes have an explosion that can ruin the outfit and your morning. Dress them in some mismatched, emo-looking get-up and the diaper will hold for days.

Once they hit the toddler phase, they instinctively know when you have quietly slithered away to use the bathroom, shower or heaven forbid, just breathe alone in a separate room. That “mommy tracking” device is foolproof. Go out on the town and stay out just a hair too late with a whispered prayer of hope that baby that will sleep until morning, you will find yourself face-to-face with a wide awake child at 4am. They are all knowing.

My one-year-old also has super human strength. He can push my husband and me out of the bed, in the middle of the night, as he lines himself up into a hyphen position. We are powerless and grasping with fingernails to the side of the mattress. Let one of these super babies get their fingers wrapped around your hair and it seems like it will take “the jaws of life” to get your locks released.

I have watched children play, wrestle, climb and catapult themselves off slides, steps, and even couches only to laugh in the face of injury. If there is a way to get two feet off the ground and free fall down, they will find it. Both of my children can scale the front of my body like they are climbing the side of a mountain…really it is quite impressive. If you watch a toddler cruise around the cleanest space on the face of the earth, they will find the grossest particle on the ground or the tiniest, yet perfectly shaped choking hazard. No danger radar for a lot of these super babies.

What a wonder they are. Their smile can bring you to your knees. The word “mommy” whispered at night can make your heart explode. One tight hug around the neck and your tear ducts are full. So many super babies with super power.

The Art of the Yard Sale

By: Shannon Shull

The past two Saturdays I have hosted two yard sales – an event that requires much preparation and hard work, with no guaranteed reward.

The first yard sale was a family event, with several households joining together to rid ourselves of unneeded items with hopes of gaining monetary rewards and freedom from clutter. The big day had been planned and rescheduled twice due to bad weather. On our third try, it poured rain the night before but a promise of amazing weather on the day of our scheduled sale gave us the determination to push forward and finally make the big sale happen. With a great location close to downtown Lexington, we thought we’d surely get enough traffic to get rid of tons of goods and make a decent profit. To our dismay, all our hard work did not turn much of a profit that day. It was the random shopper that made an offer on my grandmother’s old car in the driveway that made the day worthwhile. She’d been planning to get rid of the car, but somehow never thought to put a sign on it for the yard sale. A fella asked what we wanted for the car and low and behold, the money was handed over, the title signed and the car hauled off! That unexpected purchase was the hit of the day, but sadly we still had a ton of stuff on our hands.

Fortunately, my neighborhood was having their big neighborhood-wide yard sale the following weekend, so we transported all the goods to my house in preparation for that sale. Thankfully, we had much more traffic for our second sale and were actually able to get rid of a lot of stuff and make a decent amount of money.

Yard sale

It was at this sale that I learned more about the actual art of the yard sale. There were folks that showed up with flashlights at 6am as we were setting things up. A neighbor told us there was a couple waiting outside their house literally at 5 a.m. asking if they could look over their yard sale stuff as soon as she opened her garage. Now that’s craziness right there! I’ve seen some serious yard sale shoppers in the past, but the folks who hit up these neighborhood-wide sales were hardcore! I saw all walks of life trekking through the maze of junk and goods, some just enjoying the thrill of the shopping experience and others on a serious hunt for specific items. The saying, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” is absolutely a true statement! Let’s just say, I was astounded at some of the things that people actually paid me money for! Things I wouldn’t take for free, much less pay for! But hey, to each his own!

We had the pleasure of being schooled by one hardcore yard sale shopper that I am very thankful for. This lady happened to overhear a guy totally take advantage of me. Of course, I had no idea I was being taken because I was clueless as to how much brass was worth. So when he totally haggled me in a nice, yet manipulative manner, I caved in and gave him the deal of the century apparently. When he left, the lady sweetly informed me that he just got a way with a total steal and “took” me. At that point there was nothing I could do, as he had already escaped with a bag full of lovely brass candlesticks that he’ll be able to resell for a nice profit. I guess the lady had pity on my naïve, unschooled yard sale self because she proceeded to point out things of value that we had, that some yard sale sharks could easily rob us of if we didn’t know any better. We had a lovely black cup and saucer that just looked like plain ole black ceramics to us. She held them up to the sun and showed us how the sunlight shined purple through the glass. We had a vintage black amethyst mourning piece on our hands! Upon a little research we discovered that the set dates back to the 1930s and is worth much more than the 50 cents I might’ve inevitably sold it for! Needless to say, do your research before hosting a yard sale! You never know which items of your “clutter” may actually be special and worth more than you’d think.

Though I do not plan to survive another yard sale anytime soon, I can say that when I host another one, I will certainly do my research and be prepared to better handle the sharks of the yard sale world. Check out the links below for tips on how to shop yard sales and how to host a money-making yard sale.

http://www.newsadvance.com/the_burg/features/cover_story/the-art-of-the-yard-sale-what-to-bring-when/article_ceb69274-ca32-11e3-8577-001a4bcf6878.html

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20516775,00.html

To close out my entry here, I thought I’d share with you this info that I found on Wikipedia that actually applies to the “art” of the yard sale. I find it fascinating! I certainly experienced the cultural phenomenon that is the yard/garage sale. And if I actually had the time, I might consider diving more into this fascinating “trash to treasure” world of sales.

There’s Hope

By: Chaunte McClure

For most women I know, that time of the month when Aunt Flo pays a visit is almost always unwelcoming. She tends to bring unwanted guests like headaches, cramps, and bloating. Now, there are cases when Aunt Flo’s visit is a sigh of relief because it’s a sign that a woman is not pregnant at a time when she’d rather not be.

I’ve heard women share stories of being excited about missing a period when they’ve been trying to get pregnant. Then getting a positive pregnancy test sends that excitement into overdrive because within the next nine months, a sweet little baby will be born.

I’ve shared that excitement over and over again with my friend Schrendria (Sha-ren-dree-a) Robinson. The first time she and her husband were pregnant, we took a spontaneous couples daytrip to Charlotte after church one Sunday, where she announced at the dinner table that they were expecting. After a few seconds of celebrating in my chair and trying to maintain my composure in a public setting, I got up from my seat and hugged her. (I’m sure her husband got a hug too, I just can’t remember. Sorry, Marcus.) Nevertheless, we were so happy for them! I probably started thinking about a baby shower and the selfish part of me probably thought about how different our friendship might be after the new addition. I’m sure at some point I thought about dresses and bows because I love spoiling little girls.

Pregnancy Infant Loss RibbonWell, weeks later she got that unwelcoming sign no pregnant woman wants to see. Blood. I remember getting a text or phone call I never would have expected to receive. She lost the baby. She’s very persistent and has a lot faith, so she tried again and got pregnant. And again, she miscarried.

As a friend, what do you say to this grieving mother? All I had was silence. In spite of two losses, family and friends remained hopeful and continued to pray and trust God. Yet for the third time, she got pregnant and for the third time, the baby did not survive.

I just had to believe two things: God was going to bless her in a mighty way and this was going to be her ministry. I had no idea in what form the blessing would be, but I knew there was no way God allowed her to go through these storms without having something in store for her (and not necessarily something tangible).

You can only imagine the pain and frustration that comes with multiple losses, but through it all God held her close.

Now she and her husband wake up every morning to three handsome little boys – a two-year-old and four-month-old twins whom she conceived naturally. (Yeah, so much for the bows and dresses.)

family pic

I pray her story gives hope to someone who is trying to conceive. Schrendria has started a blog, Baby Please!, and a Facebook group, with the same title, to encourage and support other women suffering from infertility. To protect your privacy, Baby, Please! is a secret Facebook group and you have to be invited to join. Inbox Schrendria on Facebook to notify her of your interest in joining the support group.

Her story reminds me of the main idea of a production I saw last month called Finding Hope in the Struggle: In the struggles of life, there is always hope. Keep in mind, our hope will not always come in the way we expect.

If you are a mother to an angel, I pray that you will always find comfort in God’s word.

psalm23

Thanks for following along the past few months as I shared my personal experiences through the Baby Talk series. This is the final installment of the series. In case you missed any of the previous posts, here are links to each of them: There’s Something to That, When Are You Having a Baby?, Some People Say the Darndest Things, You Have the Right to Remain Silent, The Joy of Being a Godmother.

Our New Rule

By: Brady Evans 

There’s a new rule in our household: no cell phones and computers after 8 p.m. I’m a month and a half back into the workforce now and our afternoons are a mad rush between daycare pick up, evening nap, dinner prep, nighttime routine, and miscellaneous Social mediachores. By 8 p.m. I’d collapse with my phone in my hand or my computer on my lap to decompress a bit before my own bed time. I’d scroll through Facebook, look at pictures on Instagram, check out a few blogs, finish up loose ends from work….and when 9 p.m. rolled around I’d wander to bed myself. Meanwhile, my husband was doing the same.

We were both “in the zone” and out of touch with each other. We found our days had become focused on work, then enjoying the baby for the few hours he’s awake after we got home, then chores, then the world (social media). Only with a deliberate conversation did we realize we were leaving the most important aspect out of focus: each other.

The time after 8 p.m. is now dedicated to each other. It is a time to elaborate on our days at work in a way we lacked in the past. It is a time to discuss current events with each other instead of with Facebook. Do I really know how my spouse feels about gun laws? The upcoming elections? The conflict in Syria?

Who knows how long our rule will last? Maybe until we feel sufficiently connected to one another. Or maybe until one person slips and the other follows suit. But for now, it is a healthy change and I suggest you analyze your social media usage, too. I’ll admit that I am very connected and I guess very addicted to my contacts out there in cyberspace. But shouldn’t I be primarily connected and addicted to my contact (my husband) sitting right next to me on the couch?